There is probably no time in a sportsperson's life that is more uncertain than the day they retire. After being defined by sporting excellence for their whole life, they now have to enter a new phase that is often filled with uncertainty.
Some retired athletes probably feel like Brooks after his release from prison in the Shawshank Redemption. It can be an even more arduous transition if you leave your sport with injuries, an issue that is more acute in contact sports like American football and rugby.
Concussion has been a frequently discussed topic in Irish rugby recently with Johnny Sexton being scrutinised particularly heavily after a couple of head knocks over the last few years. Brian O'Driscoll played with a similar disregard for his body and in a revealing interview in the Sunday Times today he admitted to being worried about his well being after retirement.
"After I finished I felt as though I was slowing down a little bit. I just felt that my co-ordination wasn’t quite the same, so I went and got a load of neurological tests and scans just to be sure....
When you are doing something for 15 years and when you stop for six months, of course your co-ordination is going to be down a fraction. So I had the tests and everything was fine."
With O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell's retirement, Sexton has assumed the mantle as Ireland's most important player, and just as O'Driscoll feared for his own safety, he is now worried the out-half's defensive technique is leading him down a dangerous path.
“It gets highlighted because he is the poster boy of Irish rugby,” he said regarding Sexton, who starts at out-half for Ireland today in their Six Nations opener with Wales.
He is Ireland’s most important player, so when an individual has had concussion issues and had an extended period out, interest is going to be heightened.
Johnny would give out to me for saying this, but I wish he would sort out his tackle technique. I think that is an issue, and that is the reason why he finds himself in those head-collision situations, because he is very chest up.”
The above point has been discussed regularly by fans so it is very interesting for such a weighty rugby authority to give voice to it too. But is it too late in Sexton's development to drastically change his tackling style?